Emergence of New Dynasties
• By 7th century, there were big landlords and warrior chiefs, called samantas and they used to bring gifts for kings and had to be present at their courts and provide military support.
• After gaining power and wealth they declared themselves as maha-samanta, maha-mandaleshvara [the great lord of a ‘circle’ or region] and so on. At times, they even asserted their independence from their overlords.
• In Deccan, Rashtrakutas were under control of Chalukyas of Karnataka. In middle of 8th century, a famous Rashtrakuta leader named Dantidurga declared himself independent and performed a ritual called hiranya-garbha, which means “golden womb.” It was thought that sacrificer would “reborn” as a Kshatriya, even if he had not been born one.
• In other cases, men from enterprising families used their military skills to carve out kingdoms like Kadamba Mayurasharman and Gurjara Pratihara Harichandra. They were Brahmanas who gave up their traditional professions and took to arms, successfully establishing kingdoms in Karnataka and Rajasthan respectively.
Prashastis and Land Grants
• Prashastis [manuscript] were composed by learned Brahmanas, they helped in administration, contain details that may not be literally true but will tell us how rulers wanted to depict themselves.
• Kings often rewarded Brahmanas by grants of land. These were recorded on copper plates, which were given to those who received land.
• Authors, such as Kalhana had used variety of sources, including inscriptions, documents, eyewitness accounts and earlier histories, to write their accounts.
Administration in Kingdoms
• New kings took up high-sounding titles such as maharaja-adhiraja [great king, overlord of kings], tribhuvana-chakravartin [lord of three worlds] and so on. They shared power with their samantas as well as with associations of peasants, traders & Brahmanas.
• Producers [peasants, cattle-keepers, artisans & so on] used to surrender part of what they produced, sometimes, claimed as ‘rent’ due to a lord who asserted that he owned land.
• Revenue was collected from traders. These resources were used to finance king’s establishment and for construction of temples and forts. They were used to fight wars, which were in turn expected to lead to acquisition of wealth in form of plunder and access to land as well as trade routes.
• People from influential families, close relatives of king often held position of revenue collector and positions in army as well.
Warfare for Wealth
• Tripartile Struggle: To acquire city of Kanauj in Ganga Valley, Gurjara-Pratihara, Rashtrakuta and Pala dynasties fought for centuries. Historians describe that long drawn conflict as ‘Tripartile Struggle’.
• Rulers had constructed large temples to demonstrate their power and resources. Hence, when they attacked one another’s kingdoms, they often chose to target temples, which were sometimes extremely rich.
• Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, a ruler of Afghanistan who ruled from 997 to 1030 raided subcontinent almost every year – his targets being wealthy temples, including that of Somnath, Gujarat. He used looted wealth to construct a splendid capital city at Ghazni.
• Al Biruni, entrusted scholar of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni wrote about subcontinent in his Arabic work, called Kitab ul-Hind, after consulting various Sanskrit scholars.
• Other kings who engaged in warfare included Chahamanas, later called Chauhans, who ruled over region around Delhi and Ajmer. They attempted to expand their control to west and east, where they were opposed by Chalukyas of Gujarat and Gahadavalas of western Uttar Pradesh.
• Prithviraj Chauhan [1168-1192] was most famous ruler of Chauhans, he fought with an Afghan ruler named Sultan Muhammad Ghori and defeated him in 1191, but lost to him very next year, in 1192.
Cholas: From Uraiyur to Thanjavur
• In middle of 9th century, Vijayalaya Chola belonged to Cholas from Uraiyur, captured Kaveri delta from Muttaraiyar. Muttaraiyar was subordinate to Pallava kings of Kanchipuram and held power in Kaveri delta.
• Vijayalaya built town of Thanjavur and a temple for goddess Nishumbhasudini there. successors of Vijayalaya conquered neighbouring regions and kingdom grew in size and power going on to include Pandyan and Pallava territories to south and north.
• Rajaraja I, one of most powerful Chola rulers, became king in 985 AD, expanded control over most of these areas and reorganised administration of empire. Rajaraja’s son Rajendra I continued expansion policies of his father and raided Ganga valley, Sri Lanka & countries of Southeast Asia. He developed a navy for these expeditions.
• Chola temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram [built by Rajaraja and Rajendra] became centre of people settlements, which grew around them and were centres of craft production.
• Temples were not only places of worship but hub of economic, social & cultural life. Amongst crafts associated with temples, making of bronze images was most distinctive. Chola bronze images are considered amongst finest in world.
Agriculture and Irrigation
• Most of achievements of Cholas were possible via new developments in agriculture.
• Before emptying in Bay of Bengal, Kaveri River branched off into several small channels and channels deposited fertile soils on their banks. Water from channels provides necessary moisture for agriculture, particularly cultivation of rice.
• Forests had to be cleared in some regions, while land had to be levelled in other areas. In delta region embankments had to be built to prevent flooding and canals had to be constructed to carry water to fields.
• A variety of methods were used for irrigation. In some areas, wells were dug. In other places, huge tanks were constructed to collect rainwater.
• Most of new rulers, as well as people living in villages, took an active interest in these activities.
Administration of Empire
• Settlements of peasants, called ur, groups of such villages were known as nadu. village council and nadu performed several administrative functions including dispensing justice and collecting taxes.
• Rich peasants of Vellala caste exercised considerable control over affairs of nadu under supervision of central Chola government.
• Chola kings gave some rich landowners titles like muvendavelan [a velan or peasant serving three kings], araiyar [chief]. as markers of respect and entrusted them with important offices of state at centre.
• Brahmanas often received land grants or brahmadeya. Each brahmadeya was looked after by an assembly or sabha of prominent Brahmana landholders.
• Associations of traders called nagarams occasionally performed administrative functions in towns.
• Uttaramerur inscription in Chingleput district, Tamil Nadu, provide details of way in which sabha was organised. sabha had separate committees to look after irrigation works, gardens, temples.
Types of land
• Chola inscriptions mention several categories of land:
(1) Vellanvagai: Land of non-Brahmana peasant proprietors
(2) Shalabhoga: Land for maintenance of a school
(3) Brahmadeya: Land gifted to Brahmanas
(4) Devadana, tirunamattukkani: Land gifted to temples
(5) Pallichchhandam: Land donated to Jaina institutions